We’ve lost another one. When the news broke yesterday: a wave of total sadness. It just never gets any easier and they just keep coming: Michael, Amy, and now, Whitney.

This isn’t going to be a dissection piece on what went wrong in Whitney’s life. Artists don’t need to do that to each other. We already know what goes wrong. More importantly, we know the overwhelming out of control feeling of just being different, connected, a little more emotional, or just downright insane enough to follow the instinct that tells you to create something instead of just go out and get stuff in life for yourself. 

We are born with an innate sense of empathy – the ability to feel things outside of yourself. Sometimes it begins as just a desire to figure out something creative. Other times, it is an overwhelming need to chase joy, sadness, grief, or excitement and translate it to others. It rips at your mind, and tortures the soul. It keeps you up at night. Even when everything in YOUR life is going great.

I have met, lived with, played with, and loved a LOT of artists in the course of my life now. And they all have one thing in common: they feel with such depth that it is often torture. Joy and sadness. More often than not, it’s desperation. And in many ways, it makes sense. There is so much desperation in the world that is not cared for, not shouldered, and not addressed  – it’s really all around us and most artists are completely baffled at the world’s ability to keep trudging onward in their own little lives without thinking about it for a moment. Or to simply “put it away” at will.

Why is addiction and substance abuse so common amongst artists? Because we’re on sensory overload. Every day. Every moment. Of our entire life’s existence. That’s why we can take all that and make something truly beautiful for the rest of you to enjoy.

If you’re not an artist, thank your lucky f*cking stars. Because it’s no easy life. Frankly, it sucks. In a society where celebrity and money is everything as long as its the simple version of something, and there are no good paying jobs for being an artistic genius, it is a constant tightrope on the fine line of insanity. Be great at what you do, but not too great. Give the people what they want and let them kick you around for it. Endure never-ending scrutiny. Everybody is not only a critic, but ironically, they’ve never touched an instrument and but sure as shit they know your job better than you do. It is, on many days, an utter madness that “normal people” would never be able to shoulder even for a few hours.

It’s a credit to our kind though, that so many of us survive for so long. Sure we battle our addictions. We routinely give up the fight and lose ourselves in drugs, booze, sex, and whatever else to deal, but we get back up and keep going. We therapize, and joyify and testify and glorify. We make wood sing and plastic electronic pieces cobbled together in factories scream. We imbue in lifeless instruments the real experience of living. And we take melodies and our own voices, slather them with a solid helping of ourselves and share. We do this at great personal costs.

So – here’s to Whitney, and the many others who were gifted/cursed and gone too soon. You made it further than some, not as long as others. We will remember you for your gift, your inspiration, and the endless flow of the energetic ether that you allowed to pass through you so that people in their perpetual existence of object chasing can get a small glimpse of what some people call “god.”

The next generation of singers are better and stronger and deeper because of you.

Now…go rest.


Originally posted 2012-02-12 20:21:39.